Teacher and administrator salaries, health insurance, pensions and debt service obligations
are among the rising costs faced by the Mamaroneck School District, according to Superintendent Dr. Paul Fried.
He outlined the District’s budget problems and his recommendations for cutting the 2010-2011 school district budget to concerned community members, administrators and members of the Board of Education at the Hommocks Middle School Auditorium Tuesday night.
The rising costs, combined with declining revenues from New York State and Westchester County sales taxes require the Mamaroneck School district to trim next year’s budget expenditures. The goal of the meeting was to present and solicit budget reduction ideas, many of which were heard at the first community meeting two months ago and submitted to the district website.
Dr. Fried explained that the choices he would outline represent the "Best of the Worst". He added that while he could not happily endorse any reduction that affects our children, he and the Board are listening to all the ideas presented by the community as well as speaking to other school districts.
If the school budget were to just roll over, without any changes to the budget, the costs would go from $120 million to $130 million, a 9% increase. If the budget was voted down, and a contingency budget were to be adopted, that would be a 0% increase.Somewhere between zero and 9%, we would have to "close the gap" and adopt a budget the community could support. Last year, the Superintendent noted that the community voted for a 3.2% increase. This was achieved by eliminating 34 positions, raising the elementary class size and reining in non-instructional costs.
This year, the district shaved costs in maintenance, utilities, lighter health-insurance obligations and reducing the debt service by dipping into a $1.5 million reserve. Other district-wide program reductions will be instituted, which will result in less money for class trips, musicals, pep band and the Larchmont Mamaroneck Counseling Center; 9 extracurricular clubs at the high school and middle school will be eliminated. Further reductions in professional development like consultants and summer work, special ed, technology purchases, materials and supplies result in a savings of $3,741,619. This brings the budget down from 9% to 6%. In order to present a budget the community could support, a further reduction of $3.7 million is needed to bring the budget increase to 3%.
Dr. Fried then outlined spending reduction options for the schools. For the elementary schools those options include either a half day kindergarten program, increasing class size by two children or a third "Princeton Plan" which he cautioned was not viable for September but was requested by some Board of Education members and some parents. The Princeton Plan reduces the need for 12-14 teachers by having the children attend all four schools throughout their elementary years. There were two versions of this plan: classes travel together through all four schools, or through paired schools. For example, children would go to Chatsworth for kindergarten through second grade then attend Central for third through fifth grade. The caveat for this plan is that transportation costs might be higher. Savings ranged from 1.2 million to 1.7million.
Hommocks Middle School options include raising class sizes slightly, eliminating 10 teachers and aides. Another option would be to create 14 sections of "Super Teams"instead of the current team system of 16 sections. This would be a one-year fix only, since the fifth grade class is too large to split up this way. Option B is to cut the nine period day to eight periods of 46 minutes per class. Savings range from $1 million to almost $1.4 million.
The high school had the fewest reductions with savings ranging from $400,000 to $1.1 million, mostly through cutbacks in curriculum coordinators, physical education, a math and english teacher, a guidance counselor and a reading teacher.
Reductions in athletics would be achieved by option A: cutting eight teams and nine coaches, and possibly B: reducing 14 program assistant coaches. Option C reduces even more teams (for those sports served by community recreation groups) affecting approximately 345 kids. Option D would put seven additional modified sports teams on the chopping block, affecting 485 children. Those savings range from $93,000 to $315,000.
Taken altogether, almost 54 positions could be eliminated by the proposed budget cuts. Dr. Fried, using a sharp budget scalpel, identified his choices which result in a total savings of $3,809,921, a 2.8% budget increase.
After the Superintendent’s presentation, the Board of Education members took their place on stage and proceeded to ask questions. Can we refinance our debt? Answer: the school always checks periodically but no new opportunities have arisen to date. How were the cuts to the clubs determined? Answer: under-enrollment determined most of the choices.
This reporter left soon after the board took the stage. I did not stay to hear the community’s questions and concerns. I did, however, walk out with one disgruntled parent who complained, "We went nine years without an Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum. Why were no administrators cut?" Interesting question. I imagine that and many other questions will be fielded by the superintendent in the coming months.
The entire discussion was taped by LMC-TV and will be aired on Channel 76 (Cablevision)/35 (Verizon), Thursday 2/4 12 pm, 3 pm; Friday, 2/5, 6 pm; Saturday, 2/6, 12 am, 6 am, 12 pm, 6 pm; Sunday, 2/7, 12 am, 6 am, 12 pm, 6 pm; Monday, 2/8, 12 am, 6 am, 12 pm. Channel 77 (Cablevision)/34 (Verizon), Sunday, 2/7, 9 am.
You can also find information on the district website at http://www.mamkschools.org/education/components/scrapbook/default.php?sectiondetailid=28521&&PHPSESSID=c8629c7bae9068c25ee0ed9a23432ba6
February 9, Budget meeting
March 16, Superintendent recommends budget to the Board of Education
March 20, Budget meeting
April 6, Budget study session
April 20, Adoption of budget
May 18, Budget vote